Walt Disney knew a thing or two about leadership. After all, the man created an empire from the ground up and, as you can see in our feature film about the icon, Walt Before Mickey, he didn’t do it alone.
Disney needed a lot of help from a lot of people, and to get that help, he needed to inspire and motivate. He needed to become a leader people could trust, a leader people would be willing to shed their blood, sweat, and tears for. And he did just that.
So, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics that made Disney such an effective leader so that, no matter what you do nor what industry you’re in, you’ll have an idea of what it takes to lead the way.
Lesson #1 – Instill your passion in others.
Disney knew that if you want to get people to help you achieve your goals and dreams, you need to make them their goals and dreams.
If you’ve never heard about how Disney first presented his idea of turning the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into an animated feature film to his company, it’s a perfect example of his ability to instill the passion he felt for a project in others.
He didn’t just give them a quick rundown of the idea and why he thought it’d work. Instead, ever the storyteller, Disney went through the story in great detail and took on each character’s voice, mannerisms, and movements as he did so. He didn’t just tell them the story, he lived it in front of them.
He knew his team needed to feel passionate about the idea themselves and in the end, Snow White was a huge success. But you can bet that if Disney didn’t instill his passion in his team, the film probably would’ve never been completed.
Lesson #2 – Know when to step aside.
A self-professed idea man, Disney, admittedly, wasn’t the greatest animator, but that didn’t stop him from being behind many of the most magnificent achievements in animation history. So, how did he do it?
Disney had an incredible eye for talent and a deep understanding of the need to recruit talent that exceeded his own, once saying, “I have always had men working for me whose skills were greater than my own.” You can get a glimpse of his team-building abilities in Walt Before Mickey.
A huge part of being a strong leader is having an ability to delegate work and to cultivate an atmosphere that allows for creative freedom for your talent. That’s what Disney did, and he also had an ability to get them to work as a team and to feel a sense of responsibility for their work.
He knew what each was capable of and wouldn’t accept anything less than their best. Leadership is about selling your vision to competent people who you can then trust to bring it to life, and about not feeling threatened by their success.
Disney got better animators to handle the drawing and his brother, Roy Disney, to make business decisions and saw their success as a reflection of himself and his leadership skills, and the proof is in the pudding. No matter who came and went, the quality remained the same.
Lesson #3 – Always have an eye on the future.
When Disney came up with the Snow White idea, there had never been a full-length, animated feature film in history. When he came up with the idea for a gigantic amusement park, there were plenty of doubters.
But doubt never deterred Disney nor halted his movement, which was constantly going in a forward direction. No matter how much failure nor success Disney found, he was always thinking about his next project.
Even after Disneyland was completed and found success, Disney continued to walk around the park, ride the rides, and talk to guests to get a feel for what was working and what was in need of some adjusting.
That’s something anyone in any industry can learn from. Don’t get complacent. When you reach a plateau, immediately begin thinking about how you can get to the next one, even if that means taking some calculated risks along the way.
Lesson #4 – Look at failure as an opportunity to grow.
We mentioned above the doubt people had about the Snow White animated feature film when Disney first presented the idea and the apprehension about the amusement park, but Disney faced plenty more doubt about his sometimes wild ideas, and he faced many failures along the way too.
There came a point in the icon’s life, which you can see in Walt Before Mickey, when Disney basically lost everything. He lost the rights to his creations and it seemed like a perfect time to try something new.
However, he pushed on. He always pushed on, challenge after challenge, failure after failure. While many would have thrown in the towel after any one of the many failures he endured, Disney did not.
He showed incredible resiliency to withstand every struggle and saw every failure as a chance to learn and grow stronger rather than an excuse to call it quits, and that’s something we can all learn from.
KVibe has a newfound respect for Walt Disney, the leader.
Having just completed a feature film about the legend, we’ve gained a newfound respect for his ability as a leader, especially considering that the film’s shoot wasn’t without its own challenges and near failures.
The film’s director and KVibe founder, Khoa Le, was called into the production after members of the original crew abandoned the project and he needed to rally the troops and take charge himself, which was exactly what he did.
To learn more about the any challenges and failures Walt Disney had to endure on his journey to creating an empire, check out Walt Before Mickey, currently in theaters. Click here to see if it’s playing near you and to get your tickets, and check out the official movie site to pre-order your DVD copies of the film.
About KVibe Productions: A full-service film & video production company in the NY / NJ area, KVibe can handle every aspect of the production process. Whether it’s a corporate video production, a commercial, a feature film, etc., KVibe creates to inspire.